Donald Trump is an absolute, unmitigated disaster. This is not the media’s fault, it’s not his advisers fault, it’s not the GOP establishment’s fault, it’s his fault. I understand – though I respectfully disagree with – those who will still hold their nose and vote for him to stop Hillary appointing Antonin Scalia’s replacement, but everyone ought to to agree that this should never be allowed to happen again.
So how do you prevent another Trump? Apart from certain policy changes (such as a greater focus on the working class and kicking the pro-Amnesty chamber of commerce out of the party), here are a few ideas on how the GOP can ensure that its presidential ticket remains forever clown-free:
- Introduce a Single transferable vote system. This voting system is unfamiliar to most people in the US, but it’s been used successfully on a national level in countries like Ireland. What this means is that voters rank candidates – you don’t just have a first choice, but a second, third, fourth etc choice as well. First, all the first choice votes are counted. Assuming no candidate has over 50 % of the vote, the candidate with the least number of first choice votes is eliminated, and his votes are distributed according to the second choice of his voters. So if your first choice was John Kasich and he is eliminated, your vote now falls to whoever you picked as your second choice (for example Chris Christie). Whoever now has the least number of votes is eliminated, and his votes are distributed to the remaining candidate according to the second or third preference of his voters (if a voter’s second preference was the candidate that had already been eliminated). You go on and on until one candidate has a majority of the vote, and that candidate is then declared the winner.
Why is this system superior? Well as any Irish person will tell you, this is a system that’s very effective at keeping extremists out of power. The winner in a STV system is the candidate who is a lot of people’s first choice, but more importantly most people’s second choice. Divisive candidates are punished in this type of system as they tend to have a small group who have them as first choice, but nobody has them as their second choice. In Ireland the term for this is “transfer toxic” – you get a decent number of first preference votes, but then you get “killed by the transfers”. Sinn Fein, Ireland’s far-left party, has traditionally been the best example of this although this wasn’t the case in the last election. Under this system, no voter has to feel like they have to choose between voting for the candidate they like, and voting for the candidate most likely to be able to stop the candidate they hate: A lot of voters who despised Trump had the difficult choice between Kasich, whom they liked but who was unlikely to stop Trump, and Cruz whom they didn’t like but whose chances looked better. Under STV, someone could in good conscience vote for Kasich, knowing that if Kasich got fewer votes than Cruz their vote would be transferred to Cruz and not indirectly help Trump win.
Would it be trickier to allocate delegates under this system? Sure. Would it take longer to count the votes? Absolutely – in Ireland you don’t usually have an election result until the evening the day after the election is held. But, if it helps stop another Trump and instead gives us the candidate the “average” voter wants, and does away with the concept of a “spoiler candidate”, then it’s definitely worth it.
- Demand full disclosure of candidates. This includes tax returns, health evaluation (including psychiatric since mental health issues in a president can be dangerous), criminal record – everything. The party should demand all this before a candidate is even allowed on the ballot. Additionally, candidates should be forced to agree never to incite, encourage or in any way condone political violence, with the understanding that doing so will get them barred from nomination. Likewise, suggesting that the election is rigged should never be allowed – if they believe it is, they should use the proper legal procedures in place to file a lawsuit, not hint at it during rallies. The GOP cannot be the party of sore losers and conspiracy theorists if it wants to be taken seriously.
- Stop outsourcing the debates. The GOP took a good first step this year when the party limited the number of debates. While this year was bad, the one-debate-a-week 2012 campaign wasn’t all that great either. The limited number of debates would be a good idea to repeat in 2020, but with the change that the GOP should run the debates and just sell the broadcasting rights. That means the GOP appoints the debate moderator and decides what questions are asked. Answers should be as long as in the general election debates, that is 2 minutes. Long answers makes it harder for candidates to hide behind slogans and punchlines. If there are too many candidates the debate stage should be split so that half the candidates debate one night, the rest the following night, and who debates when should be random rather than based on poll numbers (with perhaps a lower threshold to participate, like 1 %). Finally, when one candidate speaks, all the other candidates mics should be muted to stop them from interrupting the candidate who speaks. When a candidate runs out of time, their mic should be muted to stop them from going overtime. This debate format will encourage candidates to learn to be good debaters with discipline, rather than loudmouths with punchlines. Also the questions can be based on policy issues that the voters care about, rather than whatever will get the networks the highest ratings.
There are of course many policy issues to address as well. Trump supporters have many legitimate concerns that I share, such as wage stagnation and the threat of Islamic terrorists hiding among refugees or managing to get into the US through the porous US/Mexican border. In the end, the GOP will have to deal with these issues in a satisfactory manner or it will be impossible to prevent another Trump. The ideas I have presented above should be seen as a complement to policy reform, not a substitute for it.
Hopefully in 2020 the GOP can make a comeback as a strong, sane political force, led by a candidate that conservatives can vote for without reservations (my early favorite is Sen. Ben Sasse from Nebraska, an early supporter of the NeverTrump movement). Thank you for reading.